Being treated to easterlies and north-easterlies throughout the period, this week we say goodbye to the UK’s frostiest April for 60 years and one of the driest to boot. Against a backcloth of continually arriving spring migrants, waders piled in ahead of some bright and shiny passerines, with many taking remarkably protracted breaks in their spring migration.
Wildfowl numbers continued to decline, with a lone Pink-footed Goose appearing for a day at Stanwick GP on 29th, and two similarly northbound Common Scoters making a stopover on Thrapston GP’s Town Lake on 28th.
This week’s Garganey count was pretty much on a par with last week’s and included the lingering pair at Pitsford Res on 27th and lone drakes visiting Ecton SF on the latter date and Summer Leys LNR on 29th-30th.
Out on their own, Great Egrets were still to be found at five locations – namely Clifford Hill GP, Hollowell Res, Pitsford, Summer Leys and Thrapston, with a maximum of three at Pitsford on 29th.
And, in keeping with last week’s low number of reports, this week’s Ospreys were singles at Pitsford on 25th, Hollowell on 28th, Stortons GP on 30th and what was probably the same individual over nearby Far Cotton, Northampton later the same day. The only other raptors of note were Marsh Harriers at Stanford Res on 24th and Summer Leys on 26th.
Migrant wader numbers continued to build, records were broken and lengths of stay were stretched in many instances. One locality stood proud in this respect. Ah yes, Summer Leys … and the birdin’ is easy … This site pulled in thirteen wader species during the period but, surprisingly, managed to miss out on a couple of species which might have otherwise found their way to this locally unique reserve. But it’s still early days. The first of these was Grey Plover, one of which stayed at Thrapston GP between 24th and 26th, quickly followed by another flying east over Stanford two days later, on 28th. And the other? Well, after the appearance of the year’s first, last week, Whimbrels arrived in force, with eight localities elsewhere collectively producing at least thirty-two birds. Clifford Hill bagged the lion’s share, with ten on 29th, seven on 26th and one on 30th. The length of stay award was won by three that remained at Hollowell for the entire week and the only other site to produce this number, too, was Stanford Res on 28th. Further singles were seen at Wadenhoe on 24th and Stanford on the same date, DIRFT 3 on 24th and 30th, Stanwick on 25th and 26th, Pitsford on 27th and Thrapston on 28th.
Away from breeding sites, a Curlew joined the Whimbrels at Hollowell on 26th, while Bar-tailed Godwits enjoyed another strong week, with singles at Hollowell Res on 24th-25th, Thrapston on 28th and Summer Leys on 24th, followed by five there on 25th. Other multiples were three at Thrapston and four at Stanwick on 25th, plus six at Clifford Hill and two at Pitsford on 26th.
Once again in the shade, Black-tailed Godwits mustered three at Summer Leys on 25th and one at Thrapston on 28th. Three Ruffs remained at Summer Leys from 27th to 30th and one visited DIRFT 3 on 28th, when a Dunlin was also at the same site and nine were at Clifford Hill, followed by singles at Earls Barton GP on 29th and Summer Leys on 30th. A late Jack Snipe was found at Clifford Hill GP on 24th.
The year’s first Wood Sandpiper pitched up at Summer Leys on 24th, staying until at least 27th, while last week’s Spotted Redshank remained at the same site throughout. In contrast to the handful we normally see in spring, Greenshanks arrived en masse this week, including a record-breaking spring flock of sixteen, again at Summer Leys, on 25th, with six still there the following day and singles on 27th and 29th. Another notable flock was seven at Ecton SF on 27th, with four present on 29th. Elsewhere, three were at DIRFT 3 on 24th and one there on 25th, three visited Stanwick on 26th, two were at Clifford Hill on 24th with singles there on 26th and 28th, two were at Earls Barton on 27th, singles were at Oundle on 24th and 26th and two were at Thrapston on 26th-27th, with singles there on 28th and 30th.
The beginning of the period saw the tail-end of last week’s Little Gull influx – and some more very respectable site totals. Leading the way, Thrapston held sixty-two on 24th, the same day producing twenty-six at Pitsford, thirteen at Clifford Hill and probably in excess of a dozen birds at Summer Leys. On 25th, three visited Daventry CP and singles were at Clifford Hill and Summer Leys, while the following day saw four at the latter site and one at Pitsford. Unsurprisingly for the time of year, other gulls were in short supply. Up to two adult Mediterranean Gulls were around all week at Summer Leys, while two second-winter Yellow-legged Gulls were at DIRFT 3 on 25th, followed by a third-winter there on 28th.
Arriving in impressive numbers, Arctic Terns took over where Little Gulls left off. Summer Leys, Thrapston and Stanwick each had up to five during 24th-26th but the biggest movement was noted on 28th-29th, when Boddington held approximately forty, Thrapston saw in excess of forty and seventy-six passed north-east through Stanwick. Maximum site counts elsewhere were fourteen at Clifford Hill and four at Stanford Res – both on 28th, which also saw three Black Terns at Thrapston and one at Boddington.
A male Merlin was between Clopton and Bythorn on 25th.
Among the arriving summer visitors this week were some class passerines. Kicking off was a bright and shiny Wood Warbler in the unusual location of Abington Park, Northampton on 28th – a crowd-pleaser for the one day it was present. Another was also found near Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton on the same date but clearly did not exert the same pull as the soft target, drive-up-and-see bird in the suburban setting of Northampton.
Somewhat amazingly, a first-summer male Pied Flycatcher was found in the above location on the same date by those twitching the Wood Warbler. Both birds had departed by the following day.
Another first for the year materialised in the shape of a Lesser Whitethroat, at Earls Barton GP, on 24th – a date on the slightly later side of average for this species.
Other smart passerines included a Ring Ouzel, which lingered by the River Nene at Thrapston from 28th to 30th, two Common Redstarts at Stanford Res on 26th and the first Whinchat of the spring at DIRFT 3 on 30th, scraping into April by the skin of its teeth.
Northern Wheatears were also still on the move, with one at Harrington on 25th, five in the Brampton Valley and seven Clifford Hill GP on 28th, while a male Greenland Wheatear was at Boddington Res the following day.
Female Blue-headed Wagtails were identified at Ravensthorpe Res on 25th, Thrapston on 26th-28th Stanford Res on 27th and Summer Leys on 28th.
Next up is May, arguably the grandest spring birding month, although April will be a hard act to follow locally.